Whether you're in the midst of studying for exam season or have a busy period at work, it may be tempting to survive off takeaways and numerous cups of coffee! However, by taking the time to nourish your body and mind with the appropriate fuel, you could actually improve your performance.
The type of fats found in fish are essential for brain development. Fish contain the omega-3 fatty acids: Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Alpha linolenic acid (ALA). Quite a mouthful, I know, but they're so important!
What do these Omega-3 fats found in fish do to support our brain performance? Omega 3's support blood flow in the brain, preserve cell membrane health, facilitate growth of brain tissue, and support brain functioning with respect to memory, cognition and sleep!
Oily fish, such as salmon, trout and sardines, contain high levels of DHA and EPA. Omega-3 can also be obtained from plant sources, however the type of omega 3 found in plant foods (ALA) is less easily absorbed than from animal foods, like fish. Plant sources include chia seeds, walnuts and darky leafy vegetables. Alternatively, it is possible to obtain DHA and EPA from plant sourced supplements. Overall, it is recommended to eat 2 portions of fish a week, one of which is oily, and if you don’t eat fish you can consume it through omega-3 rich plant foods.
The brain is susceptible to oxidative damage by free radicals. Berries, such as blueberries, contain antioxidants that can protect the brain from tissue damage by preventing formation or promoting clearance of these free radicals. These antioxidants also protect against stress and inflammation, thereby reducing the risk of neurodegenerative disease, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's' disease. The anthocyanin component of many berries provides them with their red, purple or blue colouring. These anthocyanins also function to improve cognitive function such as reasoning, learning, problem solving and attention.
Egg yolks contain choline, which is required to produce brain chemicals with roles in regulating mood, memory and intelligence. Eggs are also packed with B vitamins, including B6, B12 and folate, which exert roles in delaying cognitive decline and age-related memory loss. B6 has also been implicated in regulating energy use within the brain.
Consumption of coffee increases alertness and energy. It also contains polyphenols that prevent tissue damage by free radicals. But remember, coffee can have adverse effects if consumed in excess, such that it may increase feelings of anxiety and reduce sleep quality. So don't overdo it! Try to stick to 1-2 cups of coffee per day, and avoid drinking coffee in the evenings.
Yes, you heard that right. Chocolate can be good for you! Dark chocolate contains phytochemicals called ‘flavonoids’ which contribute to brain functioning by increasing blood flow in the brain and inducing synthesis of proteins which promote growth of brain cells and optimal brain functioning. It also contains magnesium which can reduce feelings of stress by preventing the release of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress. Dark chocolate is not the only food that contains flavonoids. They can also be found in many fruits and vegetables, as well as red wine.
Here at Gourmet Fuel, we have a wide range of foods to help support optimal brain functioning!